My friendships aren’t training me to be your wife.
I saw a blog post on a Christian site about things you can do today for your future spouse. Being someone who hopes to have a hypothetical nonexistent future spouse, I read it. Read is probably the wrong word. I skimmed it, reading certain sections if they stuck out to me. I nodded my assent at things like making wise financial decisions, making health a priority, working hard, sharpening your mind, etc., even though you should do all of that anyway to be a well-rounded human being, with or without a spouse.
But then I got to one that I couldn’t just let go of so easily: cultivate community. I read eagerly, hoping to see something like, “Your spouse shouldn’t be the only person you rely on because he or she is a human too. Having deep, meaningful friendships outside of your marriage allows you to not become dependent on one person and reminds you that we are the body of Christ and we are not all the same.” Or something like that. Instead I read this: view your close friendships as practice for marriage (paraphrased).
My friendships throughout the course of my life have taught me much about relating to others. I have learned how to love unconditionally and without an agenda. I have learned to serve, even when I would rather selfishly whine. I have learned how to forgive and let go of little and big things, even though it’s not very pleasant and I still struggle with it. I have been encouraged and have learned how to better encourage the people I care about. I have learned what quality time is and how to fight for it with the people that matter most. My closest friendships have taught me what it means to be fiercely devoted to other people, to a degree that most of them don’t realize.
But they’re not practice for the “real thing.” They’re not training wheels that you take off once you figure out how to be a good spouse and get married. And they are certainly not placeholders for your spouse. They are friendships, a fundamental part of the human existence, whether you are single, married, widowed, divorced. Whether you are a child, a teenager, a twenty-something, middle-aged, or an octagenarian.
Sure, friendship should teach you how to be a better spouse. But only in that every relationship you have should be teaching you how to be more Christ-like, which is something you should be doing anyway. So here it is: cultivate community to become more Christ-like, whether or not that will benefit your hypothetical future marriage. Cultivate community and friendships because your spouse shouldn’t be the only person upon whom you rely. He or she is a human too. As a matter of fact, not to get too spiritual or anything, you should be depending on Christ, not people. (But I get it, friends are pretty great.) Cultivate deep, meaningful friendships outside of your marriage so you don’t become unhealthily dependent on one person. We are the body of Christ, each of us as individuals make up the body of Christ. Not as a couple. As a person.
Don’t spend your life practicing or training to be a good spouse. Spend your life being a good friend and becoming more Christ-like.